Strike It Rich with Dynamite Red

A dynamite wine for an explosively delicious Fourth 

Whiz! Bang! Boom! This Dynamite Red lives up to its name.

Whiz! Bang! Boom! This Dynamite Red lives up to its name.

Happy Independence Day, readers! It feels good to get my lazy self back on the blog — not that I haven’t been busy; I most definitely have been, what with wrangling my 9-month old monkey, taming the beasts Dishes and Laundry, and now starting a job hunt. I think I do better with writing when I have more on my plate, but not too much that it’s overwhelming. When there isn’t as much pressing business to do, it’s easier to just do other things instead. A habit I would love to ditch someday!

So, today is the one day of the entire season that epitomizes summer. Hopefully your day is full of warm sunshine, a pool/river/lake, ice cream, great fireworks, fun friends and family, delicious BBQ, and, to go with that BBQ… some red wine, perhaps? But it is summer, after all, and it’s nice to go with beverages that are lighter, sweeter, and even served chilled.

If that is at all up your alley, I’ve got the perfect wine for you! (And even if it’s not, you still need to try this wine).

Have any of you ever had wine from Arizona? I used to winter in Tucson the last couple years for management training for my old job. My husband would accompany me and while I was in class during the day he would drive around and explore. He found Silver Strike Winery in Tombstone, and picked up their Dynamite Red one year. The next year we bought some again, and now we miss it and are thinking we need to order some soon.

This wine is produced and bottled in Elgin, AZ. It’s a fairly sweet red, very tasty and refreshing, especially for Arizona heat or any summer clime. We found we liked drinking it slightly chilled. There is something really nice about finding a great, delicious, straightforward, easy-drinking red that practically anyone will enjoy. Trophies in your wine arsenal.

Another benefit to drinking this (or any) wine from Silver Strike Winery is the winemakers’ philosophy of minimal chemical tampering with the grapes, and using organic and biodynamic growing methods to coax out their best flavors… a practice I will always stand behind!

While I’m aware I’ve given you pretty short notice on securing this red, as today is the Fourth, you can always order through their website. We still have plenty of summer left, and the Internet is always open for business, so no excuses! I believe the cost was somewhere in the ballpark of $15-$30. Ask about some of their other wines, too, while you’re at it. (And let them know you heard about them on The Rambling Vine). They have another one called “Village of Elgin”, I believe, that I also really enjoyed.

Until next time, I wish you all a wonderful Fourth, and hope you strike it rich with some Dynamite Red this summer!

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Pour Favor: Red Guitar Ignites Un Gran Pasion

!Vamanos! How about some soundtrack and visual scenery to set the mood….

You know the relief you get when you find your car keys after frantically upturning every part of your house? Or the sweet surprise when you find an unused iTunes gift card in a pile of old birthday cards? Such feelings are a close proximation to what I felt when I found my long lost love; this fantastic, affordable Spanish red that I thought had left me forever, short of a plane ticket to Espana. None other than Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo GarnachaAh, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you! I first bought this wine at my local grocery store, drank it, fell for it, went back for more, and they didn’t have it in stock. Mi corazon roto. I had almost given up until I was in the “Spain” section at Total Wine and found it there.

The wine is 52% Tempranillo, 48% Garnacha. The tempranillo and garnacha are like two flamenco dancers swirling sordidly on your palate. Fabulous, fruity, great taste and structure. At $10, the price is ridiculously awesome. This wine, to me, is the whole shebang, todo el asunto. It scores 10/10 on every account.

According to Red Guitar Wines:

“Centuries ago, the Spanish added a sixth string to a little recognized instrument of the time, bringing to life what we now know as the guitar. For countless generations since that day, music, food, and wine have been the fabric of the Spaniard’s joyful and vivacious existence. Put simply, la buena vida (the good life). Our prized old vines of Tempranillo and Garnacha dig deep into the gravel soils of Navarra to produce wines of incredible character and quality, year after year. Red Guitar; a rich and smooth celebration of the Spanish lifestyle.

“Garnacha is the most widely planted grape variety in the world and thrives in warm, dry regions. It produces wines of great concentration and flavor, with explosive raspberry fruit characters and soft tannins. Together, these varieties combine to produce a rich, smooth, and luscious wine full of ripe raspberry and blackberry flavors on a long, soft finish.”

With that, revel in your power and sass as you sip this intensely provocative wine! 🙂

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Luck of the Draw: Ultra-Premium Red Wine

Quilceda Creek 2006 Columbia Valley Red Wine

It was one of those extremely lucky nights, the kind where you go home with a nearly $300

Put on your fancy pants when you imbibe this beauty!

bottle of ultra-premium wine… like that happens, ever. Well, it did! At a friend’s auction, I paid a few bucks for the opportunity to draw a paper bag off of a mystery bottle of wine and whaddya know, I pick the most expensive bottle of wine on the table! Our friends were next in line, and they drew the second most valuable bottle of the night, a magnum of wine (aka 1.5 liters of wine in one ginormous bottle).

On a side note, did you know that a double magnum is called a jeroboam? There are some pretty funky names for wine measurements.

Anyway, while wine tasting in Woodinville one day, I mentioned this to someone next to me who – whaddya know – happens to be the wine buyer for a major grocer in the area. He said that the wine I had on my hands could easily be cellared for 12-14 years.

So, yeah. We didn’t wait that long. We opened it on a Monday night when we had a friend over for dinner who’d had a particularly bad day. It tasted perfect!

Sometimes, when you have a super special bottle of wine, you risk building up too much hype around it and overvaluing it for yourself and perhaps never opening it, instead of opening it up and drinking it! I was reading the other day that 90-95% of wines made in this day and age are intended to be consumed within the year of purchase… did you realize this? Crazy! Only a very small percentage of wines are created with the need for prolonged aging in the bottle to develop the flavors, let the tannins soothe, etc. With that in mind, I feel less guilty for not having a fancy climate-controlled wine cellar.

The moral of the story is buy wine you like, and drink it soon. Share it with friends and family, ideally. Don’t worry so much about preserving it and never enjoying it. That’s what some single-malt Scotch collectors do and then they never actually enjoy this precious liquid they’ve been storing for decades. Don’t be that guy.

Now, turning our attention to this lovely wine. This blend consists of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec.

From the winemaker’s notes: “The Quilceda Creek 2006 Red Wine Columbia Valley is a blend of declassified lots which reflect the richness and complexity of the vintage. This is one of our favorite Red Wine offerings to date. This medium bodied wine displays black cherry fruit, cedar, spice, vanilla and minerals. Approachable now, this blend will be best enjoyed over the next 15 years.”

And critical acclaim from the Wine Advocate, which gave this wine 92 points: “Dark ruby-colored, it displays a bouquet of cigar box, pencil lead, violets, black currant, and a hint of licorice. Medium to full-bodied, intensely fruited, and with enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years, this lengthy effort will drink well from 2011 to 2018.”

This wine is so so unbelievably smooth, it takes smooth to a whole other
level. The alcohol, sugars, tannins, are all in perfect harmony. Because it was so jarringly smooth and different, I missed the backbone, the bite, from a wine that has more tannins or acid. Other than that very minor complaint, it was truly excellent wine. Try to have some at least once in your life.

Disclaimer: OK, I exaggerated… I honestly was under the impression this wine cost way more than it did… it is sold out but retails at $65, not $300. Sigh. The $300 one is the Cabernet Sauvignon, not the Red Blend, which I got. Anyway, I kept the price at $300 for dramatic effect, and since I was under the impression that was what it cost anyway. It’s still an amazing wine!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wine Tasting in a Secret Garden

The Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection at Weyerhaeuser. Photo courtesy http://www.weyerhaeuser.com

In Which Two Tasty Woodinville Wines Are Sampled Amidst a Bonsai Collection

It’s September – scratch that – mere hours from October, and I need to play major catch up here, so consider this a two-for-one special! It’s a Rambling Vine Groupon! Read one wine review for free, read another in the same post, also for free. Er…. anyway.

Recently I had the privilege of pouring wine for Woodinville Wine Cellars at a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser at the Weyerhauser Bonsai Gardens in Federal Way. A wonderful gal I know roped me in to volunteering for this event, and am I glad I did! I love chatting up people and gabbing about wine, so this was the perfect gig for me. It was a hot summer day, fantastic event, extremely worthy cause, and an ideal, relaxing setting in which to savor some wines. Everyone who tried the wines I poured liked them.

I have never seen bonsais like these in my life! Each tree has its own staging area, platform and backdrop. It’s just amazing. You could spend hours contemplating just one. I have lived in Western Washington my entire life and had never been to this beautiful, extravagant garden! Check this place out soon! And don’t just look at the photos, use your own eyes and go enjoy the garden yourself. Who knows how many more glorious warm days we have until darkness/cold/the evil dead of winter creeps up on us? (Me, biased? Nah.)

Here are the wines I got to pour and my takes on them. I haven’t yet been to Woodinville Wine Cellars, but after tasting these I think I would like to go out there sometime and try some of their other varieties! Have you tried any of their wines?

Woodinville Wine Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley

$18 or so. Delicious! A great Sauvignon Blanc, perfect for a hot summer day. Sophisticated and very drinkable. It has bright fruit flavors balanced out by a
clean mineral dimension that doesn’t make it too tart. This was perhaps the
most popular white wine that night (and there were two other wineries there).

From the tasting notes: “This wine jumps from the bottle in a sophisticated and complex style. The aromas are floral and mouth­watering, with hints of pineapple and citrus and some subtle mineral highlights. In the mouth it is rich and well balanced, showing a hint of grapefruit, citrus and tropical tastes on a long finish. A great  complement to seafood, chicken, or your favorite soft cheese.”

Woodinville Wine Cellars Little Bear Creek Columbia Valley Red Wine

Wine Spectator awarded Little Bear Creek 90 points (that’s high!). This Bordeaux-style blend is only $20. Not bad for the price. The tasting notes point out the “warm spices and rich black cherry scents in the glass” and “concentrated flavors of blackberry, black cherry and mocha complete the finish, lending balanced acidity with a zing!” LBC (I think Snoop Dogg even likes LBC 😉 ) consists of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec. I liked it for its warm fruitiness and spice notes.

While double-fisting it is not recommended here (start with the whites and move to the reds, generally speaking), these wines are perfect to toss together for a little impromptu wine party. And if the weather is still nice a bit longer, take it outdoors. Happy sipping!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What to Drink When You’re “Hot to Trot”

Reader, meet the smoothest red wine you’ll ever drink! Photo courtesy 14 Hands Vineyards. http://www.14hands.com

In honor of everyone who is engaged to be married right now, especially my sister. Congratulations Jocelyn and Conor on your romantic Irish engagement!

Being newly engaged can be hazardous to your health… at least it was for me. When the love of my life popped the question and subsequently put a gorgeous carat on my finger, I was inordinately obsessed with MY sparkly object. I would roll my car window down every time I drove, rest my arm out the window and gaze all gooey-like at the diamond, the summation of my happiness. I can’t tell you how many auto accidents I narrowly avoided in those early weeks. I’m still obsessed with my rock, but eventually I mellowed.

But isn’t it wonderful when you’re wallowing in the throes of “just engaged” bliss? When you’re “hot to trot” with the one you love, you’re caught up in a love whirlwind that thrusts you toward the altar with smoldering passion and whiffs of eternal commitment. It’s a red torrent of unflinching romance! With your eye on the prize, nothing can stop you. “Going to the Chapel” is on constant loop in your subconscience. Yes, you fit all the criteria; you’re hot to trot! Here is a celebratory red blend wine that epitomizes the recently engaged state.

I insist you try 14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Blend. For around $10, it will shock you. Everyone to whom I have introduced this wine has raved about it! The 14 Hands label, like Red Diamond, has quickly become a hot Washington wine buy, and for good reason. Smooth, fruity, yet poised and so drinkable. From the tasting notes: “This approachable and easy drinking red wine offers generous aromas of berries, cherries and currants. A plush framework of soft tannins supports the red and dark fruit flavors that leisurely give way to subtle notes of baking spice and mocha on the finish.” It’s a blend predominantly of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, with hints of Mourvedre and other select red varieties.

This wine goes down your gullet very easily… yeah, just be careful and don’t overdo it! Perfect to share with friends, and toast the future happiness of loved ones!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

That’s Amore: Good Things Come in Threes With Tre Amore

“When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine that’s amore” ~ Dean Martin

Spicy, Sexy, Sultry: Wow, All Three?

They say that bad things come in threes and that three is a crowd. But they also say that third time’s the charm. Regardless of your personal superstitions surrounding the number three, don’t let them get in the way of trying Chateau Faire Le Pont’s 2007 Tre Amore red blend, which consists of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Sangiovese, and 21% Merlot.

From the tasting notes: “Cabernet Sauvignon from Steve Elerding’s Desert Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills blended with Milbrandt Vineyard’s Sangiovese and Merlot from the Wahluke Slope. Marries intensity and elegance. Full-bodied, rich and layered. Delivering a combination of red and black fruit flavors, the blackberries, black currants, raspberries and chocolate covered cherries meld perfectly with the mocha hazelnut aromas and velvety tannins on the long, smooth finish.” $40 per bottle on the winery’s website.

(Ahem) Did you notice the names I underlined above? A little advice: those are all really good names to look for when you’re selecting a fine Washington wine, as they are all excellent vineyards and AVAs in Washington state (an AVA is an American Viticultural Area, or a designation regarding recognized winemaking regions of the United States).

Wahluke Slope is one of my favorite AVAs. We also vacation there each summer with our dear friends who love Budweiser, hate wine, but love soaking up the sun, and that’s all the grapes do there, too… soak up absurd amounts of sunshine until they are dark, juicy and sugary-plump on the vine like fat chocolate truffles. The reward is BOLD, rich, delicious wines.

When my husband and I tasted Tre Amore last summer in Wenatchee (the home of Chateau Faire Le Pont’s winery and tasting room), it blew our minds. Plain and simple. As if that weren’t enough, Tre Amore took home the gold at the Beverage Testing Institute for 2010. We have a winner, folks!

Make sure to drink it soon, or cellar it properly according to the winery’s instructions. Introduce this wine to a steak with sautéed Portobello mushrooms or some pasta with marinara sauce and fresh herbs. Does life get any better than fine meals like this?

I will have more reviews coming soon for other wines from Chateau Faire Le Pont. One of my personal favorite wineries! You truly can’t go wrong with anything there.

Now that’s amore!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Tumult of Tannins: Darby Winery Harnesses Chaos in a Bottle

One of my least favorite womanly chores is untangling the jewelry in my jewelry box. It’s tedious, frustrating, and an inevitable reality. But hand me another female’s jewelry box, and I’m captivated. Digging through someone else’s jewelry box is like a grown-up treasure hunt: you carefully handle each piece, admiring it and imagining how you would wear it or repurpose it (or how much you could sell it for). It’s kind of like that when drinking Darby Winery’s 2008 Chaos Red Wine Blend from the Columbia Valley… you sip it, and try to sort out all the wonderful, mesmerizing flavors dancing around in your mouth.

I’m a little rusty, but I believe Chaos is somewhere in the $30-$40 range (don’t quote me) and you can purchase it at their Woodinville tasting room. Darby Winery in Woodinville is one I highly recommend. Darby has superbly crafted Washington red blends of which I am in awe, including one called Purple Haze (how awesome is that? It tastes awesome, too… to be reviewed later). Chaos’ Bordeaux-style lineup includes 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 17% Malbec. It is a clever, exquisite, intentional blend that delivers very well on the palate.

For some reason, I liked this wine better in the tasting room than when I opened it at home. Sometimes this happens, even when you take great pains to preserve a wine well and go through the trouble of decanting it. Decanting simply means pouring your bottle of wine into a glass or crystal decanter, and allowing oxygen to work its magic on the wine and expand and develop its flavors into a magnificent palate. You will taste a pronounced difference, especially with fine red wines.

Here is a quick, “CliffsNotes” primer on how you should store your wine, particularly a fine red such as Chaos (but don’t sue me if you buy an expensive bottle and it spoils… ask the winery how to store it properly and when to drink it):

1) Dark
2) Store bottle sideways
3) Cool temps, doesn’t rise above mid-sixties Fahrenheit
4) Dry, not too humid
5) No major fluctuations in the above listed

Serious wine collectors will opt for climate-controlled wine cellars to protect their investment. If you can get one, more power to you! But for everyday folks like you and me, for whom a $30-$40 bottle of wine is about as wild and crazy a splurge as we make these days, anywhere in your home that has these traits should suffice. Check out OUR makeshift wine cellar!

Arnesen Wine Cellars, Coat Closet, Washington. Various appellations.

Nevertheless, Darby’s Chaos is an exceptional and impressive wine that you red wine lovers will adore. It will earn a permanent spot in your wine cellar treasure chest.

*FYI, if you’re looking for a simple yet elegant way to store your wine, these wine cubes were designed by master designer Rich Jamieson of Jamieson Imports, Inc. He does custom furniture as well, so you can have a custom wine cellar made for you, as well as a fully custom furnished home!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.